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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Company History
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: The San Francisco Mime Troupe Archives
    Date (inclusive): 1959-1999
    Collection number: D-061
    Origination: San Francisco Mime Troupe
    Extent: 77.4 linear feet contained in 73 archive boxes, 16 folio boxes, 1 document case, and map case drawers.
    Repository: University of California, Davis. General Library. Dept. of Special Collections.
    Davis, California
    Shelf location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Special Collections Department.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Parts of the San Francisco Mime Troupe Archives were purchased in 1975 and 1980. Substantial additional items were donated by the Troupe in December 1997, May 1998, January 2000, and May 2001.


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    The library can only claim physical ownership of the San Francisco Mime Troupe Archives. Users are responsible for satisfying any claimants of literary property.

    Preferred Citation

    The San Francisco Mime Troupe Archives, D-061, Department of Special Collections, General Library, University of California, Davis.

    Company History

    The San Francisco Mime Troupe is San Francisco's critically acclaimed and oldest professional political musical theater. It began in 1959 when Ronald G. Davis formed the R.G. Davis Mime Troupe while affiliated with the San Francisco Actor's Workshop. Initially, the Troupe improvised silent mime performance "events," but soon added sound, music, and dialogue. In 1962 they began producing free shows in San Francisco parks and moved from mime into other forms of drama: first adaptations of commedia dell'arte, then vaudeville, melodrama, and other American theater. In 1963, they severed connections with the Workshop, and changed the group's name to the San Francisco Mime Troupe.
    In the Sixties, under Davis's direction, the Troupe affiliated itself with the new counterculture. They published ideas on Guerrilla Theater and Radical Theater and continued to play in theaters, in the parks, and on colleges campuses, appealing particularly to the Left. After some fairly unsettled early years which included revocations of park permits, arrests, and litigation, the San Francisco Mime Troupe was recognized with an Obie Award in 1967 for "unifying theater and revolution and grooving in the parks."
    In 1970 Davis left the company which then reorganized as a worker-managed collective. More awards followed: Obie Awards in 1971 for The Dragon Lady's Revenge and in 1989 for Seeing Double as well as a Tony Award in 1987 for excellence in regional theater. The Troupe has, for the most part, moved from adaptations to original works written by members of the Troupe (most particularly Joan Holden) and continues to use performances to point out weaknesses in American society.
    After forty years of existence the San Francisco Mime Troupe continues to uphold socialist ideals. They perform in the parks every summer, tour in the fall, and share their message through annual youth theater projects. Their mission continues to be "to create and produce socially relevant theater of the highest professional quality and to perform it before the broadest possible audience."

    Scope and Content

    The San Francisco Mime Troupe Archives consist of unique items relating to the forty year existence of the Troupe. The collection contains original and adapted scripts, financial papers, photographs, audio visual items, promotional material, correspondence, clippings, and office files. The bulk of the material is from the 1970s but there is a substantial portion from the first ten years of the Troupe as well as the years up until 2000.
    Other collections held in the Department of Special Collections that contain items relating to the San Francisco Mime Troupe Archives are:
    Identifier/Call Number: D-065:
    Title: R.G. Davis Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: D-055:
    Title: Toby Cole Archives
    D-121: Peter Coyote. Papers.

    D-145: U.M.T.R. Archives